Did mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon misspeak when he downplayed the existence of gangs in Detroit or was his statement on Facebook Tuesday misinterpreted?
“There are no organized gangs in this city because as head of the Detroit Police Gang Squad, we got rid of the Chambers Brothers, Young Boys Incorporated and other gangs,” Napoleon wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. “We will put the thugs in jail and run others out of town who disrespect Detroiters and our neighborhoods.”
Some law enforcement in Detroit see if differently.
In August, newly minted Detroit Police Chief James Craig was quoted in the Free Press as saying: “I’m looking to bring back a gang suppression unit really quickly. I’m not sure what form it’ll take right now, but we will have a unit in place soon.”
Donald Dawkins, spokesman for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Detroit, told Deadline Detroit Tuesday: “There are gangs. ATF and DPD have active investigations into gangs.”
Dawkins said some are groups and organizations that “can be categorized as gangs” that control neighborhoods and are involved in robberies, drug trafficking and violent crime.
“We have some that are very closely knit,” he said.
News of gangs have surfaced periodically in the media.
In September, Napoleon, the Wayne County Sheriff, was involved in the hunt for inmate Abraham Pearson, 25, who attacked a sheriff’s deputy at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice downtown and escaped. At the time, authorities described him as a member of “Hot Boyz”, a carjacking gang, who had a “Hot Boyz” tattoo on his left arm.
Napoleon's remarks come just one week before the election, and were served up to show his effectiveness as a cop who is tough on crime.
Napoleon, who served in the department for more than two decades, leaving in 2001 as police chief, clarified his statement he made on Facebook. He told Deadline Detroit Tuesday that there are still gangs in Detroit, but not the highly organized, generational ones of the past like other parts of the country have like the Crips and Bloods in California. He said some of those gangs are generational, whose members include fathers and grandfathers.
But to be clear, the organizations Napoleon cited on Facebook, the Chambers Brothers, which was a crack cocaine gang in the 1980s on the city’s east side and Young Boys Inc., may have been well organized but weren't generational.